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This week, we met Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health, to discuss the next steps for the Scottish Cancer Strategy. We were joined by our patient advocate Jen, who is living with secondary breast cancer. In this blog, we will share what we discussed with the Cabinet Secretary, Jen’s experience of the meeting and what we expect to happen next.
The Scottish Cancer Strategy, which is due to be published next year, will set out plans to improve cancer outcomes over the next decade.
To help shape the strategy, Breast Cancer Now submitted a response to a public consultation focussing on four key themes relating to secondary breast cancer; data collection, availability of specialist nurses, improved information for referrals and better access to clinical trials. You can read more about our recommendations here.
We also asked supporters to share their views on the strategy directly with the Scottish Government, by responding to the consultation and participating in a series of roundtable workshops held across Scotland. Thanks again to everyone who took part.
In our meeting, we focussed on the need for data collection via a secondary breast cancer audit. Scotland is currently the only UK nation without a formal audit for secondary breast cancer, meaning the experiences of secondary patients could be poorly understood in relation to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Without data, it’s harder for health boards to understand the full impact of cancer measures, it risks targeting resources ineffectively and can leave women without the treatment and support they need, so we urged the Cabinet Secretary, Humza Yousaf, to take urgent action to improve it, either through an independent Scottish audit, or by joining the existing audit in England and Wales.
To help us make that case, patient advocate Jen came along to share her experiences as someone living with secondary breast cancer. Jen was the driving force behind our Perjeta Now campaign in 2018, where we successfully campaigned for this effective drug to be made routinely available on the NHS in Scotland. She has remained an active campaigner ever since, helping to champion the needs of secondary breast cancer patients in Scotland.
Reflecting on the meeting, Jen said:
"It was great to have the opportunity to meet the Cabinet Secretary and share the concerns of secondary breast cancer patients with him, particularly the importance of data collection. Until data on secondary breast cancer is collected and shared with policy makers, how can we make the much needed improvements to diagnosis, treatment and access to support? I hope the new cancer strategy will finally answer this question, as we've been overlooked for far too long"
The Scottish Government is currently in the process of reviewing evidence from the consultation process and will be working to publish a draft ahead of full publication early next year.
We hope that we will have further opportunities to provide feedback before the strategy is published.
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